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Free Study Guide for Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

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Edition used: Published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Putnam, Inc., 2003

1. “ had to be a big lie what they say about beauty being only skin deep. For if it weren’t really there why would it show? The problem must be me” (28) - Patty Bergen

Patty is referring to her mother; she can’t understand why she is so beautiful on the outside, but so ugly on the inside. Patty feels that her mother is beautiful below the surface, but that it is Patty, herself, that is the problem. Pearl has made Patty feel like she is a failure and a disappointment to her and Harry. At this point in the story, Patty still feels like there is nothing wrong with her parents and that she is the failure.

Patty is conflicted because she does not like clothes and shopping like her mother does; since her mother is so closed-minded she has made Patty at fault that for having a different personality and different interests from her. Pearl is not praising Patty for being her own person. Instead she chooses to ignore her.

2. “A German prisoner! That’s almost as bad as going out with a nigger!” (55) - Edna Louise

Edna Louise captures the essence of the racism, in Jenskinsville, with this quote. She says this when Patty tells her about her first encounter with Anton. As discussed before, Jenkinsville was a very racially divided town. It was predominantly a white, Protestant town, which separated the blacks from the whites. Patty notes several times about “Nigger Bottoms”, the area where Ruth and the other African Americans live. Along with African Americans, Germans were also perceived as bad people, because Hitler had began the war. It is ironic that the two people Patty loves, in her life, are of the two races that are the most taboo in society at this time.

3. “God is on America’s side, and anyone who is against us is on the devil’s side” (55) - Edna Louise

This quote exemplifies most Americans’ mentality during this time: fear and hatred of the enemy. They believed that they were the superior country and race; people such as Germans and African Americans were “on the devil’s side” (55). This is why Patty is isolated from her family and her friends; she looks to Ruth as a mother, and Anton as a friend. The American society, during this time, could not accept a Caucasian befriending people of these two races. This is also why Patty gets in so much trouble when she confesses to have sheltered Anton.

4. “But someday it would happen. I would find her and she’d understand right away that Evol has more power spelled in reverse. And that would be the sign between us. She would be my real mother and now at last I could go home.” (63)- Patty Bergen

Here, Patty is discussing one of her daydreams: She has a horse, named “Evol” on which she would ride in search for her real mother. When Patty finds her real mother she will know that “Evol” is really the word “love” in reverse. The two will both decipher the meaning and live happily ever after. This theme is seen throughout the novel and is the essence of what Patty desires in life: love. She wants a mother that will love her, she wants to feel and express love.

At the end of the novel Patty finds her real mother: Ruth. Although we know, throughout the story, that Ruth is a mother to Patty, she does not realize this until the very end of the novel when Ruth expresses her love for Patty. Throughout Patty’s long journey with many trials and tribulations, she finds love, and her real mother, at the end of the story.

5. “No body loves me, in my whole life, no body has ever loved me” (133) - Harry Bergen

Harry is a belligerent character. He encourages his family to go along with the majority view because of their religion. He despises his family background and becomes enraged when faced with memories of his childhood poverty. His childhood has caused him to become obsessed with money. This is the reason he hates Grandpa Fried: he had to ask him for money to start his department store. His history of violence dates back to his childhood when his father had to hold him down and tell him not to be violent. Through this quote we are reminded of Harry’s childhood and we find that, he too, has been devoid of love all of his life.

6. “Even if you forget everything else I want you to always remember that you are a person of value, and you have a friend who loved you enough to give you his most valued possession.” (155)- Anton

Anton says this to Patty when he gives her his ring, just before he leaves. This is an emotional moment for Patty because no one has expressed love to her, let alone give her “his most valued possession” (155). After Anton gives Patty his ring, her confidence increases and she realizes that she is a valuable person.

7. “...that’s no little kid, never has been, ‘cause when she was born her brain was bigger than yours is now” (177) - Harry Bergen

Harry says this to the FBI agent interviewing Patty about Anton. It is evident that Patty’s father acknowledges and may even be proud, of Patty’s intelligence. Although, he does not display this through affection, it is possible that Harry takes out his frustrations on Patty because he feels that she is so intelligent and he can’t give her what she wants. Mr. Bergen is a terrible and belligerent father, but we now see that he may actually be proud of Patty’s intelligence and even respect her.

8. “ have embarrassed Jews everywhere. Because your loyalty is questionable, then every Jew’s loyalty is in question” (205) - Mr. Kishner

This statement also illustrates the conflict between the Jewish and the Germans, during WWII. Since the Germans were initiating mass genocide of the Jews in Europe, the Americans, especially the Jewish Americans were extremely hateful towards Germans. Since Patty is Jewish, Mr. Kishner is telling her that she has betrayed her country as well as her religion, by housing Anton.

9. “I ain’t nevah ‘fore cast me no ‘spersions on other folks’ folks, but your folks ain’t nevah gonna feel nothing good regarding you. And they ain’t the number one best quality folks neither. They shore ain’t. When I goes shoppin’ and I sees the label stamped, ‘irregular’ or ‘seconds’ then I know I won’t have to pay so much for it. But you’ve got yourself some irregular seconds folks and you’ve been paying more’n top dollar for them, so jest don’t go a-wishing for what ain’t nevah gonna be” (221) - Ruth

What Ruth means by this quote is that Patty’s parents are not good people. Ruth is a genuine woman who would never talk ill of other people’s family, but she decided to tell Patty how she feels about Pearl and Harry. She says that they are not “the number one best quality folks” and that they are “irregular”. This is ironic because if something is not of a best quality or is irregular it is considered less valuable. Patty’s parents have gone the entire novel making Patty feel this way, when in reality, it really is Pearl and Harry Bergen who are the people of less value, not Patty.

Ruth also tells Patty that she has been expending too much time and energy into trying to please her parents and trying to get them to love her. Ruth is honest in saying to Patty that this may never happen and she should stop wasting her time trying to please such people. When Ruth tells Patty this, it appears that Patty finally understands just how much value and potential she has, without her parents love and approval.

10. “...things don’t get no better for old colored ladies” (228)- Ruth

This is a very powerful line, which captures the essence of the novel and also brings about the resolution of the story. Throughout the novel Patty had found comfort and safety in Ruth because Ruth loved Patty very much and served as a mother to her. It seems that is the first time in the novel where Patty truly believes in herself and her value. Patty and Ruth discuss how Patty can go off to high school and then college to become a reporter.

Patty realizes that she must, in a way, give up Ruth to go on and pursue a life that will truly make her happy and successful. Just like any child who leaves home to attend college or move away from home to accept a job, Patty must leave the person she loves, and who has been a mother to her. This is not to be taken literally that Patty will never see Ruth again. It is more the notion that Patty is growing up; she now has the confidence to find herself and love herself and she knows that she cannot do that remaining with Ruth, especially because of the difference in class between the Caucasians and African Americans during this time period.

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